Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (in car) leaves after consultation with King Philippe of Belgium, following the Belgian National Election. EPA-EFE/OLIVIER MATTHYS

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Entire leadership of Flemish Liberals resigns over crushing election defeat


The entire leadership of one of Belgium’s premier Liberal parties have announced their resignation following their defeat in the country’s regional, national and European elections.

Tom Ongena, President of Flanders’ Open VLD party — which had been in government at the federal level in the country — announced that the group’s entire board would resign over the failure.

“We have conducted an initial analysis of the results, which is collectively deemed unsatisfactory. In the coming weeks, we will conduct a more thorough analysis,” Ongena told VRT News.

“A preliminary conclusion is that this is a collective responsibility. It is not solely the responsibility of Alexander [De Croo, of the Open VLD, who quit as Belgian prime minister on June 9] and myself, but of the entire party and the party board.

“Therefore, it has been decided that the entire party board will now collectively resign,” Ongena added, saying that the process of selecting a new party leadership will be concluded before the end of summer.

He added that the change would mean the party could not take part in the creation of new governments in the country, with their aim instead now being to find out what went wrong.

“We got a lot of support from our candidates and militants for giving everything. Many people have worked very hard in the past few weeks,” he said.

“Now we have to look at what happened and how to move forward.”

Journalists described the atmosphere at the party’s HQ as “very downcast”.

When De Croo visited Open VLD headquarters, the Prime Minister said the elections represented “a very bad result”, taking personal responsibility for the situation.

On June 10, Belgium’s King Philippe received De Croo at his palace and officially dismissed him following the previous day’s elections.

For now, De Croo will stay on as Prime Minister of a caretaker cabinet with limited powers until a new prime minister is found.

The Flemish Liberals were not the only ones suffering a painful post-vote hangover.

In Wallonia, the French-speaking “green” party Ecolo experienced a dramatic reduction in its voter base, losing more than half its electoral support.

Outgoing federal mobility minister Georges Gilkinet failed to secure re-election despite leading the party list in his home province of Namur.

He pulled in just 4,329 votes, falling significantly short of regaining his seat.

A visibly shaken Jean-Marc Nollet has since announced his own resignation as Ecolo co-chairman on RTBF and stated he was leaving politics altogether.

The other co-chair Rajae Maouane is also stepping down.

Regarding his party’s defeat, Nollet cited a political “offensive” against the ecologists, whose programme has — he said — frequently been “caricatured”.

“We have been described as dogmatic,” he lamented.